Everything you need to know about branding services: Guide for entrepreneurs
If you’re starting a business, it’s important to make your brand stand out. Brand identity can make your product recognizable, catchy, and competitive. If you’re not a designer, you can request branding services from a design company to get a logotype, choose a suitable color palette and typography, and create a style guide to establish your brand and make it consistent across all platforms. In this article, we share how branding services work and what they include, as well as show some real-life examples of branding and explain how you can make collaboration with a design agency efficient.
What do branding services include
To avoid misunderstanding, let us explain some terms associated with branding services.
Brand, or brand identity, is a complex of ideas, opinions, associations, emotions, and values of a product or service that distinguishes it from others in the market. As a company that provides branding services, we can’t come up with a mission for you, we don’t decide what values your brand should have and what emotions it will evoke. Our goal is to give the necessary visuals to your product or service according to your vision.
A brand book is a document that shows the purpose or core idea of your brand, defining the principles and guidelines of a brand’s identity. It determines how a company communicates both visually and verbally with its audience. Usually, it includes the logo and its variations, color palette, typography, graphic elements, and the style guide explaining how to use everything.
A style guide is a document that lays the foundation for the look and presentation of your brand and helps to use your visual brand assets consistently and correctly. It’s like a set of rules that says how to create design materials in the company’s specific style.
Some designers say that the brand book is more about the brand’s mission and values, while the style guide is more about the visual elements. However, in our opinion, the visuals should reflect the brand’s values — they can’t be separated.
This picture can help you understand the relationship between the terms more clearly:
At Ronas IT, we can create a brand book that reflects the company’s brand identity. It will include a style guide that reflects the brand’s values and ideas it represents. Depending on the company’s needs, we can create a logo or a style guide separately, without creating the whole brand book.
Why businesses need brand books
Let’s say you have a website designed by a particular designer and wish to create promotional materials based on that style. However, you lost the designer’s contacts and decided to hire another one. An experienced designer can copy the style without the help of a brand book but there are a lot of specialists who try to ‘improve’ the style and its elements according to their vision. Without specific rules, designers can perceive the task differently.
That’s when a brand book can help — it ensures consistency across all design materials, from websites and social media platforms to print advertisements and promos, no matter which designer makes it. When businesses adhere to their brand book, it helps to build recognition, trust, and perceived value in the eyes of their audience.
How we create brand books from start to finish
We have a standardized process that helps us deliver qualitative services to every client.
At the stage of acquaintance with the client, our managers work to correctly form the expectations, tell about all stages of the work that will be carried out, and about the degree of involvement of the client in each of them. They also try to find out as much information as possible — requirements, references, anti-references, existing design materials, etc.
After the first meeting, our designers analyze the requirements and create a mood board. This is like a set of photographs, illustrations, patterns, slogans, fonts, and color schemes. It’s made for a future design project in order to understand what the visual solution will be like: is it going to be serious or cheerful, what images are taken as a reference, how colors should be combined, and what kind of typography should be chosen.
The mood board can help in collecting information from the client, setting visual frameworks and emotional and visual components of the brand, determining areas of focus, and making it clearer for the client. Once the client sees the mood board, it’s easier for them to decide whether the project starts or not. As a rule, we make 2-3 versions of mood boards and the client chooses one of them as the direction for further work.
It’s often easier to coordinate the design with a mood board than with a technical specification. Sometimes clients are ready to provide some images for the mood board or collect boards on Pinterest, but it’s better if the designer processes them and assembles them into the proper mood boards. A good mood board should only contain informative images that show an important part of the future style. A good mood board can be described by several specific adjectives, for example, ‘strict, expensive, elegant, feminine’. The integrity of the mood board is a sign of its quality.
Here’s an example of our mood board for one of the projects:
It’s convenient to start the creation of a brand book with a logo because it often carries the whole message of the brand in a concentrated form. At this stage, we have already got an idea of the client’s request, we can further clarify how the client sees the implementation, and on which media the logo will be used first of all.
A logo consists of the following:
It doesn’t have to contain all the parts, that’s why we always clarify which parts of the logo are important for the client and what they expect to get. It’s also important to understand that there is no need to shove all brand meanings into the logo at once, the final version should remain sufficiently versatile, variable, and simple to use on various media.
Our designers start with sketching the logo ideas. They study all the materials from the client, look at the logos of competing brands, collect references, rely on the mudboard, look for interesting metaphors, and make the first sketches by hand or in vector — from them, the designer and the reviewer choose logos for the first presentation to the client. The logos should be recognizable, readable, and aesthetically pleasing, and comply with the brand.
Then we receive feedback from the client and refine the logos — this stage can be repeated the required number of times. Ideally, we agree in advance with the client on the number of iterations and edits. We show the client several possible directions so that they can choose the closest one for them. The client reviews the logos and shows which option or elements they like, and we continue the work. On average, we make about 50 logo variants for all iterations.
When the client has decided on the logo, we finalize the selected logo and prepare the final presentation materials and files for export. The manager specifies the volume of necessary presentations and related materials. These may be versions of the logo, its animation, rules for use, color variations, etc. The designer must finalize and hand over to the client a ready-made logo that meets all the requirements in its final form, and prepare all the necessary source files so that the client receives the full package with all versions of the logo for their needs.
You can check the examples of logos that we designed for other projects on our Behance.
With a ready-made logo and mood board, the direction of the company’s style is already clear and we can make a style guide or the first version of the brand book. As a rule, we do not prepare large volume style guides but only do the parts that the client needs for their business tasks at the moment or l that may be needed shortly. Usually, the guides that we offer contain the following parts:
- Logo, its variations, and presentation
- Color palette
- Usage examples
In some cases, we can add slides with the company’s mission and values, recommendations for illustrations, and icons if the client has a ready-made tone of voice. If the client objectively doesn’t need some items, we won’t describe them in detail. For example, if a brand exists only in the digital space, examples of usage on paper layouts may be unnecessary.
Before we start creating the style guide, our manager discusses and recommends specific parts to the client, and when the composition of the future guide is approved, the designer gets to work. We prepare a PDF document that meets the client’s goals, is convenient and understandable, as well as aesthetically pleasing. This guide should disclose all the sides of the brand style with clear rules for its application.
Finished brand book
That’s one of the brand books that we made for our past project called Docky.
Time and money
The cost and time of creating a brandbook depends on the number of iterations and the company’s business needs and requirements. There is an option when the client already has an idea, and designers just need to work it out, iteration by iteration, pulling out the feedback, while there is also an option when the client has no ideas and expectations and simply chooses a logo version from the first iteration.
On average, we estimate the logo in 25 human-hours and the brandbook in 40–60 human-hours. As for the price, such a brandbook might cost around $2,000, while the price for a logo alone is about $800. Keep in mind that these estimates are approximate, and the final costs depend on the number of iterations you need. Contact us to get a precise estimate and get a better picture of your future brand identity.
How to make your cooperation with a branding company efficient
Sometimes, entrepreneurs experience some issues with branding services — the project might extend in time or get stuck without progress. Two problems may appear when creating a brand book: unrealistic client expectations and lack of understanding between the client and the service provider. So here are some insights on what you can do to avoid these pitfalls and how we deal with them at Ronas IT.
Problem 1: Lack of understanding
It’s often difficult for clients to explain what they want to get and how they see the image of their brand. Branding is such a sphere where the task can only be described on the level of vibes — for example, make it friendly and use warm color tones.
One way to deal with it is to give references and anti-references. You can look at logos of popular companies or find inspiration on websites like Dribbble and Behance to figure out what you like and dislike. However, problems happen even in this case. We had cases when designers strictly followed the references but the client didn’t like the results. We asked what was wrong, and they would just tell us to try something different. ‘Play with fonts and colors’ is a saying frequently used by clients. Such requests are quite blurry and it can take designers a lot of iterations to figure out what the client wants. As a result, the finished logo can end up looking completely different from the initial requirements.
In this situation, we make an agreement with the client to do a fixed number of iterations. As a client, you can think about which valuable feedback you can give to achieve the desired result. Let’s say, a designer can make you 50 versions of the logo to choose from — with vague feedback, they will make 50 random versions, while with specific feedback, they can make 50 versions moving in a particular direction.
Problem 2: Unrealistic expectations
The second common problem is when the client is not involved in the process. Clients often expect that they will request a brand book and get it done in a week without any participation. In fact, it takes time to create a brand book — first of all, we need to get the logo approved, and only then can we start working on the brand book. In some cases, it might take a month to just create a logo and find the right direction.
Moreover, clients need to participate in the process and give their feedback after every iteration. Some clients also think that they need to choose the final logo from the versions in the first iteration. The problem is that they don’t have the correct expectations from the start.
To deal with it, our managers explain everything about our process during the first call with the client. As a client, you need to be ready to participate in the process and give your feedback. Working on a brand book always requires collaboration with the client, as well as communication and trust.
In simple terms, creating a good brand image is crucial for your business. It helps you stand out and stay competitive. This process often involves creating a logo, a style guide, and a brand book. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to work closely with your design agency. Your feedback helps shape your brand’s look and feel and find the right direction for design. Always remain active in this process to ensure your branding matches your business vision. Even though this work can be challenging, it’s necessary to make your brand recognizable. With the right approach, your brand will communicate your business values effectively, win customers’ hearts, and pave the way for your business to thrive.